Hello! Ready to grab your reading glasses? I think you will like this little autumn book by one of my most favorite authors/illustrators, Chris Van Allsburg. I loved reading his books to my library students, because his illustrations are divine, and the kiddos loved his tricky surprise endings. In Mr. Van Allsburgs 1979 edition of his book, “The Garden of Abdul Gasazi” he introduced us to a little dog named Fritz. Subsequently, Fritz appears in all of his children’s books, but is sometimes hidden. Lots of fun trying to find him, or even just watching where he will be incorporated. If you are not familiar with Chris Van Allsburg books, I will mention he is the author of several stories which have been made into movies; Jumanji, Zathura, and Polar Express! He is awesome, and every year when it came time for me to order books, I would check to see if he had written any new ones. We all loved them!

Alright! The book review today is called “The Stranger,” and begins with Farmer Bailey driving his truck down the road one beautiful fall day, when he hears a thump! He fears he has hit a deer, but when he gets out to check, he finds a man lying in the road. The man is dressed strangely, and seems dazed. He tries to get up and run off, but falls to the ground. Mr. Bailey gets him into his truck and takes him home. He and his wife and little girl notice that he doesn’t seem able to talk. They call the doctor and he comes and examines the stranger. The doctor tells them that the man is not seriously hurt, but he seems to have lost his memory. When the doctor tries to take the stranger’s temperature, the mercury in the thermometer freezes. The doctor thinks it is broken and tells Mrs. Bailey to throw it away. He suggests that the Bailey’s let the man stay with them until he recovers his memory.

The stranger fits right in with the family. They enjoy him, and he seems to love being there. He helps out on the farm, and is a great help to the farmer. However, Farmer Bailey wonders that the stranger never perspires doing the hard work in the warm weather.

One evening, they are having soup for dinner, and the stranger is fascinated by the steam rising from the bowl. He notices the little girl blowing on the soup to cool it down, and he does the same. Brrrrrrr. Mrs. Bailey feels a cold draft.  And another funny thing is, when the stranger takes a walk in the woods, they notice that the rabbits and other wild animals, who usually shy away from humans, gather around him.

Then there’s the weather. Even though it is time for fall, it remains summer! The pumpkins are growing very large. One day, the stranger is on the hillside, and he notices that all the surrounding farms have trees that have turned colors, while the Bailey Farm remain green. The stranger  picks a leaf from one of the nearby trees and blows on it. It turns bright red!  This triggers his memory, and he knows who he is. That evening, he hugs Mr. and Mrs. Bailey and their little girl goodbye.  When they go outside to bid him farewell, he is nowhere to be seen. Then, the leaves on the Bailey Farm turn beautiful red and orange and yellow, and there is frost on their window panes. There is a message scratched in the frost which says, “See you next fall!”

This book is fun for third through 6th graders. You can have them try to guess who the stranger really is, but if they can’t, you will really ROCK when you tell them he is Jack Frost. Have fun!
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